The Air Force community is grieving after an F-16 air force pilot, who once taught at Sheppard Air Force, is killed during a nighttime training exercise in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Italy.
Captain Lucas "Luc" Gruenther's body was recovered after rescue crews spent the past three days searching for him.
Gruenther's untimely death has been felt around the world like here in Texoma.
Robert Driver, Gruenther's former neighbor remembers him fondly.
"He was real neighborly," Driver says. "We saw him outside all the time and he always had time to talk to you."
Driver lived two houses down from Gruenther for almost three years.
Driver says they still kept in touch through Christmas cards and news of his death came as a terrible surprise.
"I was kind of shocked because I had heard about it. They hadn't named the pilot. You hear about something over in Italy and your like, "I'm not going to know who that is" and then when my wife told me who it was, it was shocking," Driver says.
Sheppard Air Force Base Colonel Dieter Bareihs, commander for the 80th Flying Training Wind, says being in the air force is like being in a big family and anytime tragedy strikes, it is difficult to deal with.
Col. Bareihs says Gruenther's death is being felt on base.
Gruenther was a 2005 graduate of ENJPT.
After he graduated, he stayed at Sheppard and became a T-37 instructor pilot until 2008.
Col. Bareihs says some of Gruenther's former students are now instructors in the program.
"All the knowledge, all the skills and the training the he passed on to them when they were students of his, they will now go on and continue that legacy and pass on the knowledge and skill to the next generation of future NATO combat pilots," Bareihs says.
Bareihs exclaims, "This is a reminder that even in peace time environment, being a military pilot involves some real risks. It's a dangerous business. There's some real personal risk and real sacrifice."
Bareihs says the Air Force will usually set up a Safety Investigation Board when there is an aircraft accident.
The results of that investigation are disseminated throughout the Air Force so that other pilots and other units can try to learn from what happened in the situation.
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